24/07/2009

Coming straight off the enormous disappointments I'd suffered in the $10k PLH and particularly the $5k Shootout, I guess the last few tournaments were always going to be a struggle. Despite the fact that I hardly ever play PLO8, that tournament might just be the best value in the whole series. You didn't have to be an expert in the game to see that most of my table had absolutely no clue. Unfortunately I made a technical error against a guy who knew the game and went out quite early.    

The last couple of $1500 NLHs were disappointing, as they were the only events all summer where I just couldn't get going and I struggled along with a short-stack. In the $3000 Triple Chance Hold 'Em I thought I played pretty badly but I did go from 9k to 2k and back to 15k before losing a 40k pot with the average at 12k, so at least I was creating the kind of volatility that can get you a winning stack.    

All that was left before the Main Event was the $5k 6-max. Some people say that the seniors and the ladies shouldn't have bracelets as they aren't open to all players. Personally I don't mind the $5k 6-max having a bracelet, even though it seems like it's a tournament I'm at least fifteen years too old to be allowed to play in.    

On arriving at my table, I realised a 25/1 shot had been landed, and in a room where the average age was 24 years 4 months, I was the youngest on my table. I joked with Thomas, the Corsican Champion who lives in the Vic, who was on the next table, and he looked on enviously.    

In the end I didn't win a chip there and I got moved to a new table...next to Thomas.    

After I busted Corsica's finest and another guy, our table was filled up with Daniel Alaei and my old mucker Sean Deeb.    

Sean got quite upset with me, and wrote about it on the internet, after I passed some comments about his bad play to some reporters at Monte Carlo a couple of years ago. I actually find him good company, a funny guy who's interesting to play against, so I tried to diffuse the situation immediately. I was able to get the better of him in most of the pots we played, while we shared a few laughs. It was simply getting good cards that helped me best Daniel Alaei, a player I'm genuinely terrified of.    

Despite all these good things happening I have no idea where my chips went and I was to come back on day two with a low stack.    

It wasn't until I pushed a bit too hard and made a slightly rushed move with J7 that ran into AA with 120 people left that I realised how well I'd been doing in the tournament. OK, I hadn't played anywhere near my best on day two, but I was close to a decent cash and it was $1m to the winner. I was cross as I left the Amazon Room, knowing I only had one event left.    

The next few days were great fun. The boys all loved the Pkr party at The Palms, where most of them stripped to their underpants and swam in the swimming pool on the balcony of the Hugh Heffner suite. I resisted that temptation, but I did swim more than anyone else on our fantastic boat-trip to Lake Mead. This one had to go down as yet another genius Channing idea, and if anyone is ever feeling at all fed up in Vegas, let me recommend a day out on the lake. We had a great time.    

A few days R&R was just what the doctor ordered going into the Main Event. I started to feel good about it now. This was to be my eighth WSOP Main Event and so far I'd managed three cashes. I'd also never been knocked out on day one and I wasn't about to start now.    

Unfortunately the bit of my brain that sometimes short circuits wasn't going to cooperate today. I found myself bluffing off 7k of my original 30k within fifteen minutes of the start, with no pair/no draw, against a guy who was obviously a total moron,  and not at all the type to try and bluff     

I had a sharp word with myself, got my head together and started to play well, recovering to 29k before the deck decided to punish my earlier bad play and I went right back to 20k before moving tables. I was being dealt AQ, AJ and pairs ranging from 2s to Js EVERY SINGLE HAND, and in three hours I won two small pots.    

When the table broke I was moved to one that looked perfect. It was full of amateurs. There was one guy whose son had died in Afghanistan, and who was playing the event in his place and in his memory. ESPN were following his every move as a touching human interest story. He was the only guy I won a pot off for the rest of the day. Twice I bluffed him. I'm sure to be on TV.    

The other low points were my KK getting beat by KQ and a row I had with two guys at the table over a bad ruling. I wasn't too focussed and was grouchy throughout. Constant interruptions from the rail weren't something I was in the mood for.    

Day two was always going to be a struggle. Having been as low as 11k on day one I'd finished on 16k, with an average of around 40k. On day two I went down to 5800 before twice getting to 55k. Both times I stayed at my peak for only a couple of minutes and then fell again to 20k. It was miserable. I couldn't play poker at all. Every decision was totally life or death. With three hands to go before the end I desperately shoved 12k, with blinds at 500/1000 and my Q10 ran into AQ. Maybe I got frustrated, I definitely could of waited, but I suddenly felt very tired.    

If I hadn't had the other Black Belt guys and the other guys I'd staked to cheer for and to have around me, it would have seemed like a terribly disappointing end to the trip. I'd played twenty-four events, the same as last year. I'd cashed in five, a good number, but less than last year's seven, I'd had some chances, particularly in the shootout, but ultimately another summer had slipped by without winning a bracelet, or even winning any money. I'd spent $108k on tournaments and returned just $101k. Will I really be doing this for the next twenty years?    

At least I had the guys to cheer for. Maybe one of them could do well...     

Neil Channing will stop whining about his own tournaments and celebrate the successes of the Black Belt Poker players next time.